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119 chapter five The Dynamics of Contemporary Maya Religious Tradition Agency and Structure in Selected Case Studies U tilizing three case studies, this chapter explores the actions of key participants in the reproduction of festival expressive culture as they respond to the changing social and economic context of the festival and seek to further their agendas. It seeks to identify the conceptual models guiding their work, finding that some derive from Momostecan and Maya tradition while others have external origins but may nevertheless be used, at least in part, to pursue traditional goals. Religious entrepreneurism functioning within the sector of the cult of Santiago is motivated by the desire for money and local recognition as well as a profound commitment to the supernatural patron and to at least some traditional local values. The case studies show how individuals, in pursuing specific goals and strategies, are both reproducing and transforming the institutions that make up the cult of the patron saint and the religious indigenous expressive culture of the festival. Case 1: A Crisis in the Production of the Monkeys Dance Is Successfully Resolved Through Traditional Responses In chapter 3 we described our involvement with the team that produces and performs the Monkeys Dance. As a result of our collaboration as minor 120 chapter five sponsors, our production of the video in 2006, and our return for follow-up interviews in the summer of 2007 we had become well known to the dancers and sponsors and had developed personal relationships and mutual trust with several. When don Pedro, the main sponsor and the ritualist for the dance, was murdered in October 2007 we were called and informed (see Offit and Cook 2010; see also Smith and Offit 2010 to contextualize the wave of violence of which Pedro’s murder is an example). The murder took place just a month before the November deadline for promising the dance in 2008 and left the team of dancers and the other sponsors without leadership. Furthermore, the dancers were having disturbing dreams and did not know whether the murder was an indication that the protective power of the dance had failed or whether the unexpected, violent death was a sign that the dance should not be performed. As one put it in an interview about a year after Pedro’sdeath,“TheyweresayingaboutthisdancewhenPedrodied,‘Goodbye, monkeys.’ Thus they spoke, but it was not what happened.” In December we learned that a new sponsor and a new ritualist had been named, that most of the dancers would return, and that the first practice session had been scheduled at the new sponsor’s house in February. We were invited to attend and participate. When we arrived in Momostenango we visited the cross marking the location of Pedro’s murder and his grave with one of his sons and one of his best friends, who had also served as his cosponsor in the dance for about twenty years. This gave us the opportunity to learn a little more about the murder and the responses of the interested parties to this threat to the dance. Then we spent two days with the dancers and helped erect the practice pole. December 2007: New Leadership for the Dance During his life don Pedro had sought to recruit and train not just dancers but also a chuchkajaw for the dance. Here are the words of don Anselmo, who succeeded him as chuchkajaw in 2007: I didn’t wish to get involved in the dance [when I was a young man]. It was for the patrón [and so very delicado and demanding]. The poles were planted according to [the costumbre of] my grandfather. There was the word of the chuchkajaw, and the candles he planted in the earth. I did rocketry for nine years. I was chuchkajaw for a group of rocketeers . And there was a group called the hermandad del banda, those who provided the band for the patrón’s fiesta. I stayed with them collaborating , but the patrón came to me. And the dancers, the monkeys 121 The Dynamics of Contemporary Maya Religious Tradition and the tigre and león, arrived. They took me by the arms. [In a dream?] Yes. Then I went to pay my fine to the patrón and at the Maya altar I paid my fine to the grandfathers and to the chuchkajaws that had died, that this devotion would not fall on me, because I could not afford it. This takes money. To be the...


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